- Virginia has launched a statewide competition to design cybersecurity solutions to protect internet of things (IoT) devices, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday.
- Speaking on the first day of the virtual Smart Cities Connect conference, Northam said the contest through Virginia's Commonwealth Cyber Initiative will be open to college faculty as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students. Participants will work with cybersecurity experts on new innovations, with winning teams given help to get their products to market.
- The challenge, done in partnership with nonprofit US Ignite, officially opens on May 3 and is expected to last around 18 months.
During his speech on the first day of the virtual conference, Northam noted the proliferation of IoT devices that is expected to occur in the coming years, with some estimates putting the number of connected devices at 200 billion worldwide by 2031, and 35 billion by the end of this year alone in a wide swath of industries and sectors.
But with that connectivity comes cybersecurity challenges, something that has been highlighted in the pandemic as many city employees and services have been forced to work remotely.
"Enhanced IoT security will touch nearly every aspect of people's lives and help drive digital transformation," Northam said in a speech. "The security of these devices, and the networks and computers connected to them are vital to the daily operations of businesses, banks, schools, libraries, government agencies, and the people who rely on them to communicate with family and friends, manage finances, conduct business and access services."
And there are indications that state and local governments see themselves as needing to play a leading role in establishing and strengthening IoT networks. Researchers at Cornell University are working to design a statewide network for New York to help close the digital divide and advance residents’ digital skills and trust in new technologies amid privacy concerns.
Northam said he looks forward to state officials "sharing what we learn with the rest of the country" through the competition and be a "model for the nation." The contest also comes with Virginia flexing its muscles as what Northam described as a "national leader in cybersecurity," boasting the second highest concentration of technology workers in the United States and being at the "forefront" of workforce development in the sector.
As all sectors of the economy become increasingly digitized, he said it is important for leaders to stay ahead, and encourage people to work to solve problems that may arise with cybersecurity.
"Network connectivity is an increasingly important component of our national infrastructure, not only for bringing people together, but also for connecting buildings, vehicles and machines in ways that improve efficiency and enable government to deliver public services more effectively," Northam said. "Because of the importance of these networks, they must be robust, resilient and secure."